This article is part of the We Love The Way You Love series.

Our very first eye-opening experiences of love stay with us forever – whether they are with romantic partners, best friends, our children, or even companions of the four-legged variety. This week, we asked our community: When did the word “love” become real to you?

In Sickness and In Health

“The word love became real to me when I saw my partner being willing to sacrifice his sleep, his money, his time, and his energy to take care of me when I was sick and unable to do things for myself. It was so unconditional, genuine, and freely given with no desire for me to do the same.” –J.A.

Learning About Love

“I met my wife at work over 20 years ago. She had a summer job at a bookstore where I was a manager. From the moment I first saw her, I was captivated by how gorgeous she is. I saw her walking in the hallway and I was knocked out by her big brown eyes and amazing curves. (23 years later I still am.) I got to know her over the next few weeks and quickly felt more than I was expecting to feel. We started dating and agreed to keep it as a summer relationship only, because she was going back to college in the fall. There was a moment that summer when I felt something I had never felt before. I had this brilliant, gorgeous, sexy, funny woman that I knew for sure I could not lose in September. I finally knew what the word 'love' meant. I could not see any future that did not have her in it. And I knew then that I wanted to put her thoughts and needs ahead of my own... 

I never understood love until I met my wife. I wasn't raised in an affectionate household. I have had the blessing of learning about all kinds of love over the last 23 years. The love of a partner, romantic love, and the unending love of a parent. It is my honor and privilege to be a father and husband. I will spend my life trying to do the job right. To be the partner, friend, and lover that my wife deserves. K.E.

All Love from the Beginning

“I have been having strong feelings of love my entire life. My mom actually said to me at a very young age that my intensity in loving people would be one of my greatest gifts and it would also cause me a lot of pain. And she was right, as most mothers are. And this is about more than just romantic love, it was the love I had for so many people that literally made my heart feel like it was going to burst out of my chest starting from my earliest memories. L.T.

Bonding with a Baby Elephant

When I was in the middle of the jungle in Thailand taking care of an elephant named Jokia (eye of heaven in Thai). When I arrived, she was underweight and not eating. When my trip came to an end, she had gained 10 pounds... That is when love became so real I could feel it filling my soul with joy.” –L.V.